Women in China

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"History of women in China" redirects here. For ancient and imperial China, see Women in ancient and imperial China.
Women in China
Girl in Muyuan in Jiangxi.jpg
A woman in rural Jiangxi
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.213 (2012)
Rank 35th
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 37 (2010)
Women in parliament 21.3% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 54.8% (2010)
Women in labour force 67.7% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.6908 (2013)
Rank 69th out of 136

The lives of women in China have significantly changed throughout reforms in the late Qing Dynasty, the Chinese Civil War, and rise of the People's Republic of China, which publicly committed itself to gender equality.[2] Efforts the new Communist government made toward gender equality were met with resistance in the historically male-dominated Chinese society, and obstacles continue to stand in the way of women seeking to gain greater equality in China.

Domestic life[edit]

Marriage and family planning[edit]

Further information: Chinese marriage

Traditional marriage in prerevolutionary China was a contract between families rather than between two individuals.[3] The parents of the soon-to-be groom and bride arranged the marriage with an emphasis on the alliance between the two families.[4] Spouse selection was based on family needs and the socioeconomic status of the potential mate, rather than love or attraction.[3] Although the woman’s role varied slightly depending on the social status of the husband, typically her main duty was to provide a son in order to continue the family name.[5]

An arranged marriage was accomplished by a matchmaker who acted as a link between two families.[6] The arrangement of a marriage involved the negotiation of a bride price, gifts to be bestowed to the bride’s family, and occasionally a dowry of clothing, furniture, or jewelry from the family of the bride for use in her new home.[3] The exchange of monetary compensation for a woman’s hand in marriage was also utilized in purchase marriages in which women were seen as property that could be sold and traded at the husband’s whim.[5]

John Engel, a professor of Family Resources at the University of Hawaii, argues that in order to redistribute wealth and achieve a classless society, the People’s Republic of China established the Marriage Law of 1950. The law "was in-tended to cause ... fundamental changes ... aimed at family revolution by destroying all former patterns . .. and building up new relation-ships on the basis of new law and new ethics." [3] Xiaorong Li, a researcher at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland, asserts that the Marriage Law of 1950 not only banned the most extreme forms of female subordination and oppression, but also gave women the right to make their own marital decisions.[7] The Marriage Law specifically prohibited concubinage and marriages when one party was sexually powerless, suffered from a venereal disease, leprosy, or a mental disorder.[3] Thirty years after the implementation of the 1950 Marriage Law, China still faces serious issues, particularly in regards to population growth.[3]

In a continuing effort to control marriage and family life, a marriage law was passed in 1980 and enacted in 1981.[3] The Marriage Law banned arranged and forced marriages and shifted focus away from the dominance of men and onto the interests of the children and women.[3] Article 2 of the 1980 Marriage law directly states, “the lawful rights and interests of women, children and the aged are protected. Family planning is practiced”.[3] Adults, both men and women, gained the right to lawful divorce.[4]

In an effort to fight the tenacity of tradition, Article 3 of the 1980 marriage law continued the ban of concubinage, polygamy, and bigamy.[3] The Marriage Law of 1980, Article 3, forbid mercenary marriages in which a bride price or dowry is paid.[3] Although the law also generally prohibited the exaction of money or gifts in connection with any marriage arrangements, bride price and dowries were still practiced customs.[3] According to Li, the traditional business of selling women in exchange for marriage returned after the law gave women the right to select their husbands.[7] In 1990, 18,692 cases were investigated by Chinese authorities [7]

Bride price payments are still common in rural areas, whereas dowries have not only become smaller but less common.[3] Similarly in urban areas, the dowry custom has nearly disappeared. The bride price custom has transformed into providing gifts for the bride or her family.[3] Article 4 of the marriage law banned the usage of compulsion or the interference of third parties, stating, “marriage must be based upon the complete willingness of the two parties,” [3] As Engel argues, the law also encouraged sexual equality by making daughters just as valuable as sons, particularly in regards to potential for old age insurance. Article 8 of the 1980 Marriage Law states, “after a marriage has been registered, the woman may become a member of the man's family, or the man may become a member of the woman's family, according to the agreed wishes of the two parties.” [3]

More recently, there has been a surge in Chinese-foreign marriages in mainland China, with data showing these types of marriages are more common in women than in men. In 2010, there were almost 40,000 women registered in Chinese-foreign marriages in mainland China. In comparison, there were less than 12,000 men registered in these types of marriages in the same year.[8]

Second Wives[edit]

Concubine Xin

In traditional China, polygamy was legal and having a concubine (See concubinage) was considered a luxury for aristocratic families.[9] In 1950, polygamy was outlawed and it seemed, for a while, that extramarital affairs were unheard of. The New Marriage Law of 1950 allowed women in China to be able to divorce for the first time in China, which allowed women to leave husbands who had these extramarital affairs. [6] The phenomenon of de facto polygamy, or so-called "second wives" (二奶 èrnǎi in Chinese), has reemerged in recent years.[10] When polygamy was legal, women were more tolerant of their husbands extramarital affairs. Today, women who discover their husband has a "second wife" are less tolerant and now have the ability to ask for a divorce. [11]

Men tend to travel to mainland China for work and business. Sudden industrialization in China brought two types of people together: young female workers and rich businessmen from cities like Hong Kong. The men start relationships with these women, known as "keeping a second wife" (bao yinai) in Cantonese.[11] Many migrant women find it hard to find husbands, so they make themselves more readily available to become the second wives and lovers of rich business men.[12] The men are attracted to these economically dependent women; the businessmen's first wives tended to stay at home and not work. [11] There are many villages in southern part of China where predominantly these "second wives" live. [12] The men will come and spend a large amount of time in these villages every year while their first wife and family stay in the city. [13] The relationships can range from just being casual sexual transactions that are paid for by the businessman to being long term relationships that develop into something more. If a relationship does become something more, some of the Chinese women quit their job and become 'live-in lovers' whose main job is to please the working man.[14]

The first wives in these situations have a hard time dealing with their husbands taking part in extramarital affairs, but women deal with it in different ways. Most women don't have much say because they are usually far away from their husbands. Even if the wives do move to China with their husbands, the businessman still find ways to carry on affairs. Some wives go into the situation with the motto "one eye open, with the other eye closed" meaning they understand their husbands are bound to cheat, but want to make sure they practice safe sex and do not bring home children.[15] What becomes confusing is the relationship with the children and the father who is almost always gone. Many first wives, in order to suppress the children's questions, downplay the fathers role and make it seem less important. Other women fear for their financial situations. In order to protect their life's work, some women try to protect their rights but putting the house and other major finances in their names instead of their husbands.[15]

This situation has created many social and legal issues. Unlike previous generations of arranged marriages, the modern polygamy is more often voluntary.[12] Women in China are facing serious pressures to be married, by family and friends. There is a derogatory term for women who are not married by the time they are in there late twenties, Sheng nu. With these pressures to be married, some women who have very few prospects willingly enter into a second marriage. Sometimes, these second wives are promised a good life and home by these men. Oftentimes, these women are poor and uneducated so when they split, they have very little left. Sometimes these women were completely unaware that the man was already married. [7] There are now lawyers who specialize in representing these "second wives" so they are not taken advantage of if the relationship ends badly. See documentary attached, "China's Second Wives". [8] This documentary takes a look at the rights of second wives and some of the issues they face.

Policies on divorce[edit]

The Marriage Law of 1950 empowered women to initiate divorce proceedings.[16] According to Elaine Jeffreys, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Associate Professor in China studies, divorce requests were only granted if they were justified by politically proper reasons. These requests were mediated by party-affiliated organizations, rather than discredited legal systems.[16] Ralph Haughwout Folsom, a professor of Chinese law, international trade, and international business transactions at the University of San Diego, and, John H. Minan, a trial attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and a law professor at the University of San Diego, argue that the Marriage Law of 1950 allowed for much flexibility in the refusal of divorce when only one party sought it. During the market-based economic reforms, China re-instituted a formal legal system and implemented provisions for divorce on a more individualized basis.[16]

Jeffreys asserts that the Marriage Law of 1980 provided for divorce on the basis that emotions or mutual affections were broken.[16] As a result of the more liberal grounds for divorce, the divorce rates soared [17] As women began divorcing their husbands, tensions increased and much resistance was met from rural males.[18] Although divorce was now legally recognized, thousands of women lost their lives for attempting to divorce their husbands and some committed suicide when the right to divorce was withheld.[18] Divorce, once seen as a rare act during the Mao era(1949–1976), has become more common with rates continuing to increase today.[19] Along with this increase in divorce, it became evident that divorced women were often given an unfair share or housing and property.[16]

The amended Marriage Law of 2001, which according to Jeffreys was designed to protect women’s rights, provided a solution to this problem by reverting to a “moralistic fault-based system with a renewed focus on collectivist mechanisms to protect marriage and family.” [16] Although all property acquired during a marriage was seen as jointly-held,[17] it was not until the implementation of Article 46 of the 2001 Marriage Law that the concealment of joint property was punishable.[16] This was enacted to ensure a fair division during a divorce.[16] The article also granted the right for a party to request compensation from a spouse who committed illegal cohabitation, bigamy, and family violence or desertion.[16]

Domestic violence[edit]

Further information: Domestic violence in China

In 2004, the All-China Women’s Federation compiled survey results to show that thirty percent of the women in China experienced domestic violence within their homes. The Chinese Marriage Law was amended in 2001 to offer mediation services and compensation to those who subjected to domestic violence. Domestic violence was finally criminalized with the 2005 amendment of the Law of Protection of Rights and Interests of Women.[20]

The lack of public awareness of the 2005 amendment has allowed spousal abuse to persist.[21] There was a significant increase in the prevalence of domestic violence in the People's Republic of China involving Chinese women committing violence against Chinese men.[21] In 2003, 10 percent of violence in families involved male victims.


The gender gap in current enrollment widens with age because males are more likely to be enrolled than females at every age group in the People's Republic of China.[22] 1961 marked the sudden decrease in female enrollment in primary and secondary school. Female primary school enrollment suffered more than that of males during the Great Chinese Famine (1958–1961).[22] Although the gender gap for secondary and primary education has narrowed over time, the gender gap at the highest education level remains much larger.[22]

The One Percent Population Survey in 1987 found that in rural areas 48 percent of males aged 45 and above were illiterate while 6 percent of males 15–19 years old were illiterate. Although the percentage of illiterate women decreased significantly from 88 percent to 15 percent, it is significantly higher than the percentage of illiterate men for the same age groupings.[22]

Health care[edit]

Further information: Women's health in China

In traditional Chinese culture, which was a patriarchal society based on Confucian ideology, women did not possess priority in healthcare. Health care was tailored to focus on men.[23] Chinese health care has since undergone much reform and has tried to provide men and women with equal health care. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the People’s Republic of China began to focus on the provision of health care for women.[23]

This change was apparent when the women in the Chinese workforce were granted health care. Health care policy required all women workers to receive urinalysis and vaginal examinations yearly.[23] The People's Republic of China has enacted various laws to protect the health care rights of women, including the Maternal and Child Care law. This law and numerous others focus on protecting the rights of all women in the People's Republic of China.

The phenomenon of the missing women of Asia is visible in China. The ratio of men to women in China is much higher than would be expected biologically, and gender discrimination has contributed to this imbalance.[24] Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, asserted in 1990 that over 100 million women were missing globally, with 50 million women missing from China alone. Sen attributed the deficit in the number of women to sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, and inadequate nutrition for girls, all of which have been encouraged by the One-child policy.[25]

Ethnic minorities[edit]

Uyghur sayings on women:[26][27]

Firewood serves for winter, a wife serves for her husband's pleasure. (Qişniŋ rahiti oton, ärniŋ rahiti xoton.)

Woman is the slave of the house. (Xotun kişi tüt tamniñ quli.)

Allah is God for a woman, the husband is half God. (Ayalniñ pütün xudasi XUDA, yärim Xudasi är.)

the first wife is a good woman, the second a witch, and the third a prostitute. (birgä täkkän yaxši, ikkigä täkkän baxši, üčkä täkkän paxši.)

A family with many women will be miserable. (Qizi barniñ därdi bar.)

Let your daughter marry or you will die of regret instead of illness. (Qiziñ Öyde ärsiz uzaq turmiğay, ölärsän puşaymanda sän ağirmay.)

Woman: long hair, short wit. (Xotun xäqniñ çaçi uzun, ä qli qisqa.)

A woman without a husband is like a horse without a halter. (Ärsiz xotun, yugänsiz baytal.)

Men rely on life, a wife relies on her husband. (Är jeni bilän, xişri äri bilän.)

Foreign women[edit]

Some Vietnamese women from Lao Cai who married Chinese men stated that among their reasons for doing so was that Vietnamese men beat their wives, engaged in affairs with mistresses, and refused to help their wives with chores while Chinese men actively helped their wives carry out chores and care for them.[28]

In a study comparing Chinese and Vietnamese attitudes towards women, more Vietnamese than Chinese said that the male should dominate the family and a wife had to provide sex to her husband at his will.[29] Violence against women was supported by more Vietnamese than Chinese.[30] Domestic violence was more accepted by Vietnamese women than Chinese women.[31]

Most Korean comfort women who stayed in China married Chinese men and one of them gave the explanation that: "Chinese men are different from their Korean counterparts. The latter like to drink and harass women but Chinese men are extremely endearing to their wives".[32]

Population control[edit]

One-child policy[edit]

Main article: One-child Policy

In 1956, the Chinese government publicly announced its goal to control the exponentially increasing population size. The government planned to use education and publicity as their main modes of increasing awareness.[33] Zhou Enlai launched the first program for smaller families under the guidance of Madame Li Teh-chuan, the Minister of Health at the time. During this time, family planning and contraceptive usage were highly publicized and encouraged.[34]

The One-child policy, initiated in 1978 and first applied in 1979, mandated that each married couple may bear only one child, except in the case of special circumstances.[35] These conditions included, "the birth of a first child who has developed a non-hereditary disability that will make it difficult to perform productive labour later in life, the fact that both husband and wife are themselves single children, a misdiagnosis of barrenness in the wife combined with a passage of more than five years after the adoption of a child, a remarrying husband and wife who have between them only one child." [35]

Mainland China has a highly masculine sex ratio. The sex ratio at birth (between male and female births) in mainland China reached 117:100 in the year 2000, substantially more masculine than the natural baseline, which ranges between 103:100 and 107:100. It had risen from 108:100 in 1981—at the boundary of the natural baseline—to 111:100 in 1990.[36] According to a report by the State Population and Family Planning Commission, there will be 30 million more men than women in 2020, potentially leading to social instability.[37] The correlation between the increase of masculine sex ratio disparity on birth and the deployment of one child policy would appear to have been caused by the one-child policy.

The policy not only limits the number of births a family can have and it does not only cause gender imbalance but it also put pressures to women. Women are mostly blamed when giving birth to a baby girl as if they chose the gender of their baby. Women were subjected to forced abortions if they appear to be having a baby girl [38] This situation led to higher female infanticide rates and female deaths in China. The one-child policy stole the freedom the women have in deciding how to live their lives and in making their own decisions.

Other Asian regions also have higher than average ratios, including Taiwan (110:100), which does not have a family planning policy.[39] Many studies have explored the reason for the gender-based birthrate disparity in China as well as other countries. A study in 1990 attributed the high preponderance of reported male births in mainland China to four main causes: diseases which affect females more severely than males; the result of widespread under-reporting of female births;[40] the illegal practice of sex-selective abortion made possible by the widespread availability of ultrasound; and finally, acts of child abandonment and infanticide.

Iron Fist Campaign[edit]

According to reports by the Amnesty International, family planning officials in Puning City, Guangdong Province launched the Iron Fist Campaign in April 2010.[41] This campaign targeted individuals for sterilization in an attempt to control population growth. 9,559 individuals in Puning City were targeted for sterilization, some against their will.[41] The targeted individuals were asked to go to governmental clinics where they would be sterilized. If they refused the procedure, then they put their families at risk for detainment.[41]

The Iron Fist Campaign lasted for 20 days and targeted 9,559 individuals.[41] Approximately 50 percent consented and 1,377 relatives of targeted couples were detained.[41] Family planning officials defended the Iron Fist Campaign, asserting that the large population of migrant workers in Puning misunderstood the One-child policy and therefore had not complied with family planning regulations.[41] In an attempt to standardize family planning policies across all of China, the Population and Family Planning Law of 2002 was implemented. According to the Amnesty International, the law protects individual rights and bans the usage of coercion or detainment.[41]

Property ownership[edit]

In current-day China, women enjoy legal rights to property almost identical to those of men. However, Chinese women have historically held little rights to private property, both by societal customs and by law. In imperial China (before 1911 C.E.), family households held property collectively, rather than as individual members of the household. This property customarily belonged to the family ancestral clan, with legal control belonging to the family head, or the eldest male.[42]

Ancestry in imperial China was patrilineal, or passed through the male. Because women were not a part of this male-based ancestral line, they could never share the family property.[43] Upon the death of the head of household, property was passed to the eldest son. In the absence of an eligible son, a family would often adopt a son to continue the family line and property.[44]

However, as Kathryn Bernhardt, a scholar of Chinese history points out, nearly one in three women during the Song dynasty (960-1279 C.E.) would either have no brothers or no sons, leaving them with some agency over family property. In these cases, unmarried daughters would receive their fathers’ property in the absence of direct male descendants, or an unmarried widow would choose the family heir.[44] A new law enacted during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 C.E.) required that in the absence of a direct male descendant, a man's property was to go to his nephews. With this change in law, women's access to private property was restricted. At that point, only if none of a man's sons and none of his brothers' sons were alive to inherit property would a daughter receive the inheritance.[43]

In most cases, the most control over family property that a widow would receive was maintenance, or the agency to control the property while an heir came of age.[44] In some cases after some reforms in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), some women could retain maintenance over undivided property even after their sons came of age.[45] Law during the Republican era interpreted this to mean that widows held complete power over sons in control of family property.[45]

The Kuomintang, which assumed power over China in 1911, publicly advocated for gender equality, though not very many changes in property rights went into effect until the enactment of the Republican Civil Code in 1930, which changed the basic definitions of property and family inheritance.[44][45] The Code specified that family property legally belonged to the father, with no connection to the ancestral clan.[44]

Inheritance of this property was based on direct lineage, regardless of gender, so that sons and daughters would receive an equal share of family property upon the death of their parents. Furthermore, a man's will or appointment of a different heir could not fully bypass the legally mandated inheritance structures, preventing families from holding onto gender-discriminatory customs.[44] Despite the law's equitable wording on property, some scholars, such as Deborah Davis and Kathryn Bernhardt, point out that the legal definitions regarding property may not have entirely changed the practices of the general public.[44][46]

The People's Republic of China, which assumed control in 1949 and remains in power today, also promised gender equality. The PRC's approach was different from the Kuomintang. With regards to land, all land was owned by the central Chinese government and allocated for people to use, so technically no one, male or female, owned land. In 1978, the Chinese government set up a household farming system that split agricultural land into small plots for villages to allocate to citizens.[47]

Land was distributed to households with legal responsibility in the family head, or the eldest male. So, a woman's access to land was contingent on her being part of a household. Land leases were technically supposed to transfer with marriage to a woman's marital family, but the perfect allocation of land leases was not always reached, meaning women could potentially lose land upon marriage. Such village allocations have since ceased, so the leases to the land are now passed through families.[48]

For property other than land, new Chinese laws allow for distinction between personal and communal property. Married couples can simultaneously own some things individually while sharing others with their spouse and family. With regards to divorce, Chinese law generally demands a 50/50 split of property. The Marriage Law of 1980 defined different types of divorce that would split the conjugal property differently, such as instances of adultery or domestic violence.[46]

Since most divorce disputes are settled at a local level, the law allows for courts to review specific situations and make decisions in the best interest of the child. Typically, such a decision would simultaneously favor the mother, especially in disputes over a house where the child would live. In some divorce disputes "ownership" and "use" over property would be distinguished, giving a mother and child "use" of the family house without awarding the mother full ownership of the house.[46]


If we use female labor force participation as the indicator to measure gender equality, China would be one of the most egalitarian countries in the world: female labor force participation in China increased dramatically after the founding of the People's Republic and almost reached the universal level.[49] According to a study by Bauer et al., of women who married between 1950 and 1965, 70 percent had jobs, and women who married between 1966 and 1976, 92 percent had jobs.[22]

Even though women in China are actively contributing to the paid labor force at an extent that exceeds numerous other countries, parity in the workforce has not been reached.[50] In 1982, Chinese working women represented 43 percent of the total population, a larger proportion than either working American women (35.3 percent) or working Japanese women (36 percent).[51] As a result of the increased participation in the labor force, women's contribution to family income increased from 20 percent in the 1950s to 40 percent in the 1990s.[51]

Rural work[edit]

In traditional China, land was passed down from father to son and in the case of no son, the land was then given to a close male relative.[52] Although in the past women in China were not granted ownership of land, today in rural areas of the People’s Republic of China, women possess pivotal roles in farming, which allows them control over the area’s central sources of production.[53] Population greatly affects the mode of farming that is utilized, which determines the duties women have in farming.[54] The practice of "clearing a patch of vegetation by the slash-and-burn method, growing assorted varieties of crops in the cleared land for one or two seasons and then moving to a new plot of land on a rotational basis" is known as Shifting cultivation.[55]

According to tishwayan Thomas Rawski, a professor of Economics and History at the University of Pittsburgh, this method of agriculture is utilized in less populated areas and results in women performing more of the agricultural duties, whereas in more populated areas complicated plough cultivation is used.[55] Plough cultivation prepares the land for farming by loosening the soil, making it easier for seeds to be sown. Men typically perform plough cultivation but during periods of high demand women pitch in with agricultural duties of planting, harvesting and transporting.[56] Women also have key roles in tea cultivation and double cropping rice.[54] Agricultural income is supplemented by women’s work in animal rearing, spinning, basket construction, weaving, and the production of other various crafts.[54]

Urban and migrant work[edit]

In the private sector, Chinese law mandates the coverage of maternity leave and costs of childbirth. These maternity laws have led to employers’ reluctance to hire women.[57]

However, not only do China's enterprises have the largest proportion of employment in industries, this is also the case for the whole non-agricultural employment in China. The 1991 survey, for example, shows that a little more than one third of male and female employees in China in 1991 were in the area of industrial production. Furthermore, the proportion of female employees in the following areas to the total female employees surpasses the proportion of male employees to the total male employees: (1) professional and technical occupations, (2) commerce and service occupations, and (3) industrial production.[49]

The People's Republic of China’s dependence on low-wage manufacturing to produce goods for the international market is due to changes in China’s economic policies.[58] These economic policies have also encouraged the export industries.[59] Urban industrial areas are staffed with young migrant women workers who leave their rural homes. Since males are more likely than females to attend college, rural females often migrate to urban employment in hopes of supplementing their families’ incomes.[60] Factories in urban areas manufactured toys, clothing, electronics, and footwear primarily for exportation into the international world market.

In 1984 the reform of the Regulations of Permanent Residence Registration marked an increase in the migration of rural Chinese workers. As the restrictions on residence became more lenient, less penalizing, and permitted people to travel to find employment, more women engaged in migrant labor.[60] In the cities, women could find low paying work as factory workers. These increased employment opportunities drew women out of rural areas in hopes of escaping poverty.[60] Although this reformed system enabled the migration of rural residents, it prohibited them from accepting any benefits in the cities or changing their permanent residence, which led to a majority of migrant workers not receiving any forms of medical care, education, or housing.[60] Currently 90 percent of migrant workers violate the Chinese labor law by working without contracts.[60]

Nationally, male migrant workers outnumber female migrants 2:1, i.e. women comprise about 30% of the so-called 'floating population'.[60] However, in some areas, Guangdong Province for example, the ratio favours women. In the industrial district of Nanshan in Shenzhen, 80 percent of the migrant workers were women. A preference for younger women over older women, has led to a predominantly young population of migrant workers.[31] Married women have more restrictions on mobility due to duties to the family, whereas younger women are more likely to not be married. Also, younger rural women are less likely to become pregnant, possess nimble fingers, more able to work longer hours, and are less knowledgeable about their statutory rights.[60] For the women who are able to gain employment, they then face the possibility of being forced to sign a contract prohibiting them from getting pregnant or married during their period of employment.[61]

Women in politics[edit]

Women in China have low participation rates as political leaders. Women’s disadvantage is most evident in their severe underrepresentation in the more powerful, political, positions.[22] At the top level of decision making, no woman has ever been among the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party’s Politburo. Just 3 of 27 government ministers are women, and importantly, since 1997, China has fallen to 53rd place from 16th in the world in terms of female representation at its parliament, the National People’s Congress, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.[62]

Crimes against women[edit]


Main article: Foot binding

Following the fall of the Qing dynasty and the end of imperial rule, the Republican government outlawed foot binding in 1912[63] and popular attitudes toward the practice began to shift decisively by the 1920s. In 1949 the practice of footbinding was successfully banned.[64] Today bound feet act as a reminder of the past “oppression of women, insularity, despotism, and disregard for human rights.”[65]


Young women and girls are kidnapped from their homes and sold to gangs who traffick women, often displacing the women by great distances.[66] In order to ensure that the women do not run away, the men who purchase them do not allow the women to leave the house.[67] Oftentimes the documentation and papers are taken from the trafficked women.[67] Many women become pregnant and have children, and are burdened to provide for their family.[67]

In the 1950s, Mao Zedong, the first Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, launched a campaign to eradicate prostitution throughout China. The campaign made the act of trafficking women severely punishable by law.[68] A major component of the campaign was the rehabilitation program in which prostitutes and trafficked women were provided "medical treatment, thought reform, job training, and family reintegration."[68] Since the economic reform in 1979, sex trafficking and other social vices have revived.[68]


Shortly after taking power in 1949, the Communist Party of China embarked upon a series of campaigns that purportedly eradicated prostitution from mainland China by the early 1960s. Since the loosening of government controls over society in the early 1980s, prostitution in mainland China not only has become more visible, but also can now be found throughout both urban and rural areas. In spite of government efforts, prostitution has now developed to the extent that it comprises an industry, one that involves a great number of people and produces a considerable economic output.

Prostitution has also become associated with a number of problems, including organized crime, government corruption and sexually transmitted diseases. As the Chinese favor a son more than girls in the family, there is a disproportional larger marriageable aged men with no prospects for finding enough women, they also turn to prostitutes. This is accentuated by many married men and wives who do not live in one city together and they turn to "consultants" for help.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^ "Gender Equality and Women's Development in China". Archived from the original on 29 December 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Engel, John W. (November 1984). "Marriage in the People's Republic of China: Analysis of a New Law". Journal of Marriage and Family 46 (4): 955–961. doi:10.2307/352547. 
  4. ^ a b Tamney, J. B., & Chiang, L.H. (2002). Modernization, Globalization, and Confucianism in Chinese Societies. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  5. ^ a b Yao, E. L. (1983). Chinese Women: Past & Present (p. 17). Mesquite, TX: Ide House, Inc.
  6. ^ Chen, Guo-ming (2002). Chinese conflict management and resolution. Ablex Publishing. pp. 289–292. 
  7. ^ a b c Li, Xiaorong (1995). Gender Inequality in China and Cultural Relativismin Women, Culture and Development: A Study of Human Capabilities. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 407–425. 
  8. ^ Jeffreys, Elaine; Wang Pan (2013). "The rise of Chinese-foreign marriage in mainland China, 1979-2010". China Information 27 (3): 347–369. doi:10.1177/0920203x13492791. 
  9. ^ Suowei Xiao (June 28, 2011). "The "Second-Wife" Phenomenon and the Relational Construction of Class-Coded Masculinities in Contemporary China". Men and Masculinities. 
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